School board negotiates financial officer’s contract

Published 8:09pm Thursday, July 25, 2013

After much deliberation during a recent Selma City School Board meeting, the contract for Selma City School System’s chief school finance officer will again be a topic of discussion during Tuesday’s work session. 

CSFO Grindal Harris’ proposed contract is currently under negotiation. According to Selma City Schools attorney Katy Campbell, the only things Harris is looking to negotiate are salary and specifications on how vacation days can be used.

Specifically Harris requested her salary be increased by $4,000 from $76,000 to $80,000. In addition, she has asked that a sentence limiting vacation benefits be removed from the contract as well.

Campbell told the board, CSFO benefits allow 15 vacation days per year. Those vacation days however, are to be taken in accordance with board policy. And board policy states, no payment will be made for any vacation day that is unused as of the employee’s resignation, termination or death.

“What Ms. Harris is requesting is that the sentence be removed so if she is terminated or she does leave, she will be able to take her vacation time with her,” Campbell said. “Other than that she was satisfied with everything else in the contract.”

Because of the position the CSFO holds and the salary made, Campbell said the board was required to negotiate the contract in a public meeting.

Selma City School Board president Henry Hicks Sr., said Harris has done a great job as Selma’s CSFO, noting she’s been certified according to state law and has attended multiple conferences to better the system. Hicks recommended granting Harris a raise, even if it wasn’t the full $4,000 she requested.

“I don’t think what she’s asking for is ridiculous, because she handles the whole financial burden of making sure that we’re stable,” Hicks said. “I think we could work it out to get her to that point or close to that point, because she’s done everything that she’s supposed to do. I think we need to show her that we appreciate her and what she does.”

Other board members agreed Harris does a good job, but weren’t convinced to the point of accommodating her wishes.

“I really like Ms. Harris, she’s done a great job — but so have so many of our other teachers; they want a raise too, but are we going to give them a raise? No,” board member Brenda Obomanu said. “Where’s the fairness in that?”

In the course of three years Harris has earned $6,000 in raises, which is $3,000 each year she’s served as CSFO. Obomanu said giving Harris a $4,000 raise, on top of the state-mandated two percent raise across the board, is simply unfair.

“Who doesn’t want a raise,” she asked the board. “[Harris] is the only one who’s gotten a raise; no one else has gotten a raise on a major scale. I think we should be fair to everyone and not just single her out and treat her differently.”

School board member Dr. Udo Ufomadu told the board, compared to the job she is tasked with, $4,000 really isn’t a significant amount, and suggested the board go ahead with the vote.

Board member Frank Chestnut Jr. however, said he had concerns that because board member Dr. Kirit Chapatwala was absent from the meeting, the vote would not be a fair vote to Harris and asked that the vote be held.

Chestnut did however say the board needed to move quickly because good CSFOs are hard to come by.

“We need to make a [decision] soon because she is an asset to our organization and to the school system, and we surely don’t want her looking outside this organization,” Chestnut said.

Hicks agreed.

“You get what you pay for,” he said. “We may not be the biggest system in the state, but CSFO’s don’t come cheap.”

The board will further discuss their decision at Tuesday’s meeting.

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